Gamification vs Gameful design: What is the difference?

Monday, October 25, 2021

Gamification and Gameful design are too different concepts that are often confused for one another. We at Gamify are passionate about these terms, and so we’re here to educate our readers to help them have a firm understanding of both! 

The real difference between the two concepts comes down to “intention”. What is the reasoning behind the gamified experience that you are creating? 

Both of these concepts can be executed successfully, but to do this, you must understand each individually. 

To quickly summarise: Gamification equates to making a game of any activity, gameful design looks at the various aspects and intrinsic motivators that are embedded in successful games and events, and attempts to integrate them into tasks or learning activities.

Let’s dive into the two terms a bit further.


As previously mentioned, we are all about Gamification, and gamifying life, simply making it more fun while staying productive along the way.

To clarify, gamification isn’t an established game (though mini-games are fun and great), but it is more so adding in-game mechanics into experiences. There are many different kinds of game mechanics that you can add in that will add gamification to an experience, those are:

  • Points

  • Levels

  • Progress Bars

  • Leaderboards

  • Badges

  • Rewards

It is useful across so many different contexts and industries, from business, marketing, sales, employee training, and student learning. Gamification increases motivation, engagement and creates a fun atmosphere of competition, whether it is you and your team aiming to achieve a particular goal, or you trying to beat your own personal record.

There are thousands of fantastic examples of gamification, and here at Gamify, we specialize in gamification specifically within the marketing sphere. We have plenty of case studies, but one of our favorite campaigns that we ran was for a sleep-technology brand called Resmed.

An actual game was at the center of the campaign, yet it was more than just a fun endless runner, there were gamified elements such as points, badges, progress bars, leaderboards, and fun rewards involved as well. The brand wanted to reward its customers with fun prizes while educating them about sleep apnea. The game was ultimately a success, with over 25 thousand plays and hundreds of sleep apnea quizzes taken as a result. You can read about this case study here.

Gameful Design

Gameful design embraces incremental implementations of proven intrinsic motivators while it acknowledges, accentuates, and builds on the work that good instructors do as second nature. It actually takes the current user experience into consideration before adding in any video game elements.

In other terms, it adds subtle hints of gamification, using more psychological impacts to create a more engaging and enjoyable experience.

Gameful design thus looks at the elements that make real games, or other forms of engagement, intriguing and then applies those principles to educational experiences. In this way, and by defining intrinsic motivation or motivators in terms that many educators recognize and already try to incorporate, the motivational design reflects and builds on things that good instructors do as second nature.

In what is considered a good learning experience, participants are challenged, are provided with prompt and supportive feedback, are supported to reduce their fear of failure, and are encouraged through cooperation and/or teamwork. These are all gameful design principles.

It is very important to understand this difference because gamification and gameful design methods might differ in their initial goal and intention: either focusing more on using game elements to solve a problem or envisioning a gameful experience and seeking the means to create it.

An example of this was when Dominoes launched their infamous pizza tracker. The tracker itself was not an actual game for the user, but it was simply a more fun and engaging experience for the user to know exactly when their pizza was going to be delivered.

These definitions both sound very similar at first glance but are in fact different at their core due to their unique intentions and approaches. Gameful design is more so fun to watch and observe throughout the entirety of a project or concept.


Though they might look similar at first glance, gamification and gameful design are indeed different and can be used successfully across many different contexts. For further reading and more content like this, you can check out our blogs here. We would also love to hear your thoughts, so comment below!

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